Aldermen approve police academy funding during heated City Council meeting

SHARE Aldermen approve police academy funding during heated City Council meeting

Aldermen voted to approve $20 million toward a new police academy. | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

The City Council voted during a heated meeting on Friday to approve a fund transfer needed to bankroll a $95 million police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park –– a move that community groups opposed to the project had sued to block following a controversial game of parliamentary hardball at a council meeting two days earlier.

The vote passed 39 to 2 to appropriate $20 million from the sale of a valuable North Side fleet maintenance facility for the new academy — a plan slammed as symptomatic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s misplaced priorities by critics including Chance the Rapper, Black Lives Matter and other groups operating under the #NoCopAcademy label.

Chants from more than 200 protesters echoed into City Council chambers at the start of Friday’s meeting before a line of opponents took the microphone for public comment.

“We are asking for accountability. We are asking for these funds to go to our communities,” one #NoCopAcademy protester said.

A raucous crowd took to the upper-floor viewing gallery, shouting through the glass.

“A lot of these folks have no idea what they’re talking about,” Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said. “Their heart might be in the right place, but they’re following an empty hashtag.”

Those words spurred a handful of protesters to interject with chants of “Shut it down!” before being ejected.

“It’s not that we want it in our community. We need it,” Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said over protesters’ chants of “Shame!”

“Shame on you!” Burnett shouted back. “The West Side needs this.”

On Wednesday, Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and David Moore (17th) had sought to delay consideration to next month’s City Council meeting. Ramirez-Rosa on Friday again attempted a parliamentary move to split the items in the appropriation bill but was voted down.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speaks against a $20 million funding appropriation toward a new police and fire training academy. | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speaks against a $20 million funding appropriation toward a new police and fire training academy. | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

“What is clear is that our Chicago Police Department is not lacking in resources. It is lacking in accountability and oversight,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “Our working families are not crying out for a new shooting range or swimming pool for police.

“Black youth were denied the opportunity to speak against the funding of the facility,” Ramirez-Rosa said to extended bursts of applause from activists.

Ramirez-Rosa and Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) were the only votes against the measure.

“I understand everybody that showed up today. But it was a very long process starting 18 months ago,” Emanuel told reporters after the vote. “Voices have been heard, the votes have been passed, and the future of the West Side is going to be better than when we started.”

Aldermen voted in spite of a last-ditch effort by #NoCopAcademy activists who filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to block the City Council from reconsidering the plan, arguing that Emanuel and his allies violated the Open Meetings Act by refusing to allow public comment at Tuesday’s Budget Committee meeting.

They further accused the mayor’s minions of breaking rules of order by abruptly recessing Wednesday’s City Council meeting after the delay tactic deployed by Ramirez-Rosa and Moore.

After the measure passed Friday, Emanuel hit his regular talking points on the project as being beneficial to the whole city “because all the officers, firefighters and EMTs will be trained in a modern facility,” and saying it would “serve as an economic jolt for the West Side that has been long neglected.”

Emanuel also said the academy will help “execute” the Obama Justice Department report triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

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